14 Jan 2016

ChintuTravels 2015, Day 2, Kumbhalgarh. The Great Wall of India.
It was very hard to decide between Kumbhalgarh and Chittorgarh. Both cities are famous for their grand forts, finally the decision came down to the distance, Kumbhalgarh was nearer to Udaipur than Chittorgarh.

I started early as I had to try Udaipuri Breakfast, Poha, Pakoda , and Chai. I walked to one of the Pols( meaning doors in Rajasthani, they are usually created as an entrance to a walled city or a fort.) and had my breakfast at the numerous thelas around the darwaza. I wanted to walk to Fatehsagar Lake first, but was told that it was a bit far from the city, so I waited and took a shared auto to it.
Unlike Pichola lake, Fateh Sagar is far from the tourism commercialization and caters as a hangout place for the locals, you could see people jogging and running. There a few boating service providers too but they are different from what is there in Pichola lake, I could see people gathering to ride Speed Boats which I hadn't seen around Lake Pichola. You get a much clearer view of the Aravali hills. I had noticed a wall art on instagram and it was supposed to be near Fateh Sagar lake and I had to get there to take a photo, it was too beautiful to miss. I kept stopping people around the lake and showed them the snapshot and asked if they knew where it was, after stopping around 15 people one guy pointed me to the direction. I walked for a few minutes and there it was! The next challenge was to get the profile photo. This is one of the major issue with travelling solo, most of your own photos are selfies. I asked one of the guys standing there to take a photo of me, he obliged but wasn't happy at the way I was posing. After a few modelling instruction about the correct posture and the correct look on my face he finally took a photo he was happy with. I offered to take a photo of his with his camera, but he smiled and refused. I think he wasn't convinced with my modelling skills and assumed I was an equally pathetic photographer. I asked people for directions to the bus stand and walked towards it. I didn't have to go till the bus stand as someone told me that the bus I was looking for would come at the next corner.
Fateh Sagar Lake

The best pose I could make.

The initial plan was to take a bus to Saira and then take another one from there to Kumbhalgarh but I got to know that there was this village just 7 kilometers away from Kumbhalgarh and Saira was around 40 Kilometers. I skipped the bus to Saira and waited for another half an hour for the bus to Kelvada.

When I got into the bus all the back seats were full, I asked the conductor if I could sit beside the driver, the called me in. After the regular chit chat from where I was and what I did, the driver became friendly and started telling me about all the famous places which would come on the way to Kelvada. I could sense that this was going to be a fun ride. 

A few minutes in the ride the driver stopped and bought a few Beetroots. Later with the help of the conductor her started cutting them while driving the bus and made morbid jokes like " Look I just killed someone" while offering me a cut beetroot. It is hard to accept food from someone who makes such humor about the food he is offering but with hesitation I accepted the blood red food, and made an attempt to laugh at his joke while the conductor and the helper thought he was the funniest man around.

The Road to Kelvada goes between the Aravali ranges and gives a scenic view of the bare mountains and the tiny villages with people in simple yet colorful attire. The driver and conductor showed me the location where the Movie Khuda Gawah, starring Amitabh Bachchan was shot, I could feel the nostalgia in the conductors eye while he mentioned how he came to the place very morning of the shooting and stayed till pack-up to get just a glimpse of the Megastar.

The Scenic route to Kelwara

A few minutes later after the Khuda Gawah location the engine of the bus started making a noise which only the driver and the conductor could listen, I tried hard to listen it but couldn't. I was asked to come out of the driver's cabin and the conductor and the helper started looking at the engine, apparently some kind of a screw had got loose and fallen out. The Conductor made some calls for a spare to pick up at the nearest auto shop but wasn't able to acquire one. Finally it was decided that the bus would be running at a slower pace till Kelwara and they'll get the screw at the shop where the bus was usually maintained. This meant I had lesser time to spend at the fort as the Last bus to the nearest place where I could get another bus to Udaipur was at 5:30. And at this pace we would be reaching Kelwara only around 3 PM, an hour late than the usual time. The bus dragged to Kelwara and my communication with the driver was cut as I was moved to one of the back seats between colourful pagdi clad village men and women with a long ghunghata.

The Location where Khuda Gawah was shot. 

As soon as I reached Kelwara and started enquiring about how to reach Kumbhalgarh from there. It was a 7 Kilometer uphill walk from Kelwara, the jeep drivers asked for 400 rupees for such small distance and the next bus to the nearest bus stand which was 2 Kilometers from Kumbhalgarh was not leaving for another hour. I did the best thing I could, I started to walk and waved hands at any vehicle that went in the Forts direction. After walking for a few hundred meters, a big white car stopped, the car belonged to the nearby Club Mahindra Resort, the driver said he was going to drop till the resort only but would arrange another vehicle for me from the resort. I got into the car and the resort came in a few minutes, the driver went inside to park his car and while I tried my luck again at other cars, he came out after a few minutes and looked at cars passing by he stopped none as he knew none of the people. Around 5 minutes later A garbage truck stopped the driver of the truck seemed to know the club driver, The truck was going to take me another 3 kilometers and stop and then I had to walk for another 2. I thanked the truck driver and told him to thank the club driver for me as in hurry I had forgotten to do so. No other car stopped for the remaining two kilometers as I ran to the Fort.

Kumbhalgarh Fort

The fort is situated on a hill and from long distance you can notice the grand wall of the fort. These walls are the longest walls in India and are called "The Great Wall of India". To reach to the top of the Fort you have to go through 7 gates, I couldn't go to the ruined temples on the other side of the entrance of the fort as I was short on time. I ran up to the fort to get a clear glimpse of the aravalli valley and the long fort walls. The fort and the wall are one of the biggest I've ever seen, the fort complex isn't architecturally as beautiful as the forts in Jaipur and Jodhpur. But the beautiful view and the grand walls around it make up for it.
The view from the top of the fort 

I had to go back to the point where the Garbage Truck had dropped me I was supposed to get a bus to saira from there and then from saira a bus to udaipur. The Bus from saira was the last mode public transport to take me back to udaipur and missing it would've been a hard hit on the pocket. But even with all these complications I had lost the track of time mesmerized by the beautiful view from the top of the fort, and only when I heard someone that it was around 4:45, I realized that I had to run back to the bus stand. I had to first run down to the base of the fort and then run another 2 Kilometers to the bus stand.

The grand fort walls

I dashed down the fort and for another kilometer. All this had taken 30 minutes as the terrain was too steep to run, and I was tired because I had walked around 15-20 kilometers the last day. I was certain that I would miss the bus and was thinking of a way to get back to udaipur. Instead of trying to run the next kilometer in 15 minutes, I tried my hand again at hitchhiking, I walked for another 100 meters and noticed that there was a white suv standing down the slope, I ran to it and asked the person standing if they were going to the direction I was, they said yes. And I one breath I pleaded to them to give me a lift or I'd miss the bus and have to spend a night in Kumbhalgarh. The person calmed me down and asked me to get into the car. There were a lot of people in the car. A big Gujarati family with kids. The oldest kid in the car asked me what I did, I told him everything without taking a breath. He asked me if I had a card. I said no, but I told him that he could search me up on facebook to verify that I was speaking the truth. I gave him my name and asked him to search for Chintu which co-incidentally was his nickname(His name was Chintan). I reached the bus stand with 5 minutes still to 5:30.

The bus came 15 minutes after 5:30 and had no seat at all. The conductor took the money asked me to sit on the bags of hay on a couple of truck tires on the space before the front row. This bus was supposed to take another 90 minutes to saira, from where my bus to udaipur was at 7:30. The route the bus took was even better than the morning bus, with hairpin bends that didn't allow any speed and the bus stopping at almost every few minutes as everyone in the small villages was dependent on it, and since it was the last bus, it often waited at a few stops for longer than usual as the conductor had got calls from people to wait for them. There came a place where I saw women standing with firewood,not just a bundle of wood but an entire dried trees. There were three women and all of them had a tree each. The conductor helped them to load the trees on the top of the bus. I was certain that this was something you could see only in India. The bus reached Saira at 7:30.

I enquired if the bus to Udaipur had gone or not. They said it usually ran late and was going to come any minute now. I was hungry after all the running, I saw a dhaba where a couple of guys were making rotis. I asked how much did the food cost. 50Rs came the reply. I asked if I'd be able to have it and not miss the bus. They said "Aram Se". I sat down at the table and asked for one plate of the food. The guy gave me a bowl of curry, a bowl of curd and four chapatis. I finished the thin chapatis in minutes and asked about the charges for extra chapatti. The guy smiled and said "Eat as much as you want". I was surprised and had another 7-8 chapattis and a couple more bowls of curry. This was the simplest yet one of the tastiest food I had eaten out. The food reminded me of the kind of food we had at my home which I hadn't had enough of for the last 3 years

The humble all you can eat thali.

I had finished my meal but the bus hadn't arrived. I asked the guy in the dhaba if I had missed it. He said I hadn't. The bus came in another few minutes. It was empty, I hopped in and sat on one of the seats near the window and slept for the next hour. It reached udaipur around 9:30 and dropped me at a point which was around a couple of kilometers away from the hostel. I had gone through these lanes last night and knew they were safe to walk at night. I walked back to the hostel, ran to the bathroom, took a warm shower to get rid of all the dirt I had accumulated and went to bed.

I was planning to extend my stay in udaipur. Instead of taking the train next evening to Ahmedabad, I wanted to take the early morning bus the day after. As it took only 5 hours in a bus but around 11 hours in a train to reach Ahmedabad. I cancelled my train ticket for the next evening and booked a bus ticket for the day after and went to sleep.


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